The Spanish central government had been intent on keeping the country together before the Catalan referendum on Sunday – but the damage has been done. The vote descended into scenes of violence across Barcelona yesterday as hundreds of people were arrested (and injured) when police sought to stop the ballot; the heavy-handed response from the Guardia Civil has all but sealed the nation's fate. Curtailing the referendum with force was an arch misstep by the central government because it had echoes of the Franco era. The question now: where does Spain go from here? It’s time for PM Mariano Rajoy, after weeks of effectively sticking his fingers in his ears as the vote approached with piecemeal offers to secessionists, to outline clear steps for bringing greater powers to Catalonia. He needs to open lines of dialogue with those in the region who don’t see the future of Spain in terms of either/or.
China has waded in on the debate around national anthems that continues to roil the US. A draconian new law that came into effect on National Day over the weekend states that Chinese citizens must stand whenever “March of the Volunteers” is played and singers are prohibited from publicly altering the lyrics in a derogatory manner. Beijing has gone one step further than Washington by exposing lawbreakers to potential criminal penalties and police detention. The law does not automatically apply in Hong Kong but chief executive Carrie Lam’s intention to implement it has stoked fresh fears over the city's prized freedom of expression. However, for now the main topic of debate is whether or not football fans will be locked up en masse for booing the anthem at the next sporting grudge match.
Australia is a ripe market for media growth given the right investment and outlook. The New York Times opened its latest bureau in Sydney in May to much fanfare; it’s seen a 30 per cent bump in readership and a leap of 95 per cent in subscribers from Australia over the past year. Entering into the highly partisan media environment of Australia may not seem like an obvious or easy step but it has underlined the importance of adapting to the region, not least hiring local journalists and even changing style guidelines (“Indigenous” and “Aboriginal” are now capitalised in the NYT). Other outlets should take the hint – the continent can be welcoming and is ready for more high-quality media if given the right resources.
All across Europe, the drain of inhabitants from small villages has long seemed an irreversible process. But in Italy a new law might reverse the flow: the measure aims to protect 5,591 towns, more than half of which are currently uninhabited while the rest have fewer than 5,000 citizens. A dedicated fund will be used to revamp historic town centres, build multipurpose venues or set up contracts to improve postal and transport services. There are also plans to install high-speed internet connections and promote local-produce food markets. While the idea behind this new law is unexceptionable, many are wondering how easy it will be to implement: with €10m set aside for 2017 and €15m a year between 2018 and 2023, it's hard to believe that the cash will be enough to cover these ambitious – if much needed – interventions.
Former UK Labour party politician Chris Mullin is acclaimed for his diaries, which cover the rise and fall of New Labour. He’s also won both an Emmy and a Bafta for the adaption of his novel ‘A Very British Coup’. He talks to Georgina Godwin about his life in politics under Tony Blair, his work in Vietnam and Cambodia, his campaign to free the Birmingham Six and his witty new memoir.
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